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10 exciting developments fusing food and real estate

A new report, Cultivating Development, shows how culinary innovation and foodie culture can help build community

There’s no question that attitudes towards food and healthy living have evolved over the last few decades. Cuisine and food culture have undergone dramatic shifts, from the proliferation of celebrity chefs to ever-more sophisticated palettes; since 1994, the number of farmers markets in the country have increased fivefold. It only makes sense that developers, always on the lookout for the next standout residential and commercial development, would start factoring these trends into their new projects.

In a new report, Cultivating Development, the Urban Land Institute examines how the real estate industry has begun to embrace culinary sophistication and foodie culture, positioning shared gardens and upscale food halls as must-have amenities and retail anchors. These additions not only fuel commerce and community, but can lead to more sustainable, equitable development that legitimately improves the health of residents. Here are 10 of the projects highlighted in the report, from healthy residential developments to indoor farming centers, that both help the bottom line and add value to the community.

Refresh Project (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Turning a food desert into an oasis, this community development project located between the Treme and Mid-City neighborhoods goes beyond adding a healthy grocery option to assembling the resources for healthier lifestyles. Spearheaded by the local group Broad Community Connections, this developmet replaced a vacant supermarket with a Whole Foods Market and a variety of healthy nonprofits, such as the Tulane University Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, a first-of-its-kind program that teaches healthy eating and cooking in a clinical setting, the ReFresh Community Farm, and Liberty’s Kitchen, an on-site food service and life skills training center. The project didn’t just encourage better eating habits, but offered more holistic health and wellness assistance as well as career opportunities.

Arbor House (Bronx, New York)

This new housing development seeks to provide not just affordable housing, but a healthy diet, to a community that’s been disproportionately affected by diabetes and heart disease. A 10,000-square-foot hydroponic rooftop farm atop the 124-unit property will grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs, which will then be sold in a neighborhood lacking a surfeit of healthy options.

The Pinehills (Plymouth, Massachusetts)

This new village center models itself after more a traditional layout and design, meaning extensive open space (only 30 percent of the land is developed) and a large two-acre village green as a centerpiece. The retail area, anchored by The Market, the state’s first “healthy market,” is linked to nearby homes via a network of walking paths.

Mariposa (Denver, Colorado)

Built by the city housing authority, this 800-unit mixed-income development utilizes clever design and an array of public programming to encourage healthy living, including a weekly farmer’s market, the on-site Osage Cafe, and a community bike-share program.

Mercado La Paloma (Los Angeles, California)

Established nearly 15 years ago, this former garment factory-turned-food industry incubator has been a celebrated success, earning plaudits from the U.S. Congress. Nearly 200 locals, from social service workers and artists to immigrant entrepreneurs, are employed at this complex, which helps provide startup capital, a health center, as well as conference rooms and performance spaces. An in-house initiative to provide nutrition information, La Salud Tiene Sabor, has spread to local restaurants and markets.

Summers Corner (Summerville, South Carolina)

A “community in a garden” near Charleston, this planned development includes a bike trail system, demonstration gardens, and an outdoor market. The main garden houses the Clemson University master gardener program, which gives residents the opportunity to sharped their skills in the company of experts. Produce from the garden are also used at the nearby Corner House cafe.

Aerofarms (Newark, New Jersey)

This recently opened indoor farm, set inside a former steel mill, will eventually grow two million pounds of produce annually, and serve as an anchor for the RBH Group’s Makers Village project, a three-acre sustainable production district set to activate the local job market.

Eco Modern Flats (Fayetteville, Arkansas)

Using healthy lifestyles as a selling point, a local developer turned these blocks of ‘60s-era apartments into greener, more sustainable homes, featuring a landscape redesigned to include native plants, rainwater harvesting, and rooftop gardens. Parking was also moved to help create a massive communal garden, one of many community features that helps build relationships among tenants.

Aria Denver (Denver, Colorado)

Set to open in 2018, this infill community on the site of a former convent will knit together 450 homes and a variety of gardening and health amenities, including a pay-what-you-can farm stand, a permaculture pocket gardens, a 1.25-acre production garden, shared kitchens, as well as access to healthy cooking classes. The developers believe “giving up” land for these amenities ends up raising the value of the project as a whole, both making it more attractive and bringing in more community partners.

Rancho Mission Viejo (Orange County, California)

A massive series of planned developments intertwined with farms and ranches, this residential and retail project offers a more sustainable and community-oriented model for homebuilding. The first village, Sendero, includes two communal farms amid 941 homes, and when finished, the entire development will include schools, parks, clubhouses, and other recreational facilities. .